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  Call for Love Dial-a-date
Year: 2007
Director: Zhang Jian-Ya
Stars: Xu Zheng, Jiang Hong-Bo, Liu Yi-Wei, Song Jia, Fan Bingbing, Eva Huang Sheng-Yi, Annie Shizuka Inoh, Ning Jing, Qu Ying, Qin Hailu, Bai Bing, Cong Shan, Gong Bei-Bi, Che Yong-Li, Shen Xing, Yu Daiqin
Genre: Comedy, Romance, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Xu Lang (Xu Zheng) is bored with his wife (Jiang Hong-Bo) and over dinner, casually suggests they get divorced. When his wife asks why, after seven years of marriage, Xu can’t think of a single reason. Quite understandably, Xu’s wife throws him out onto the street with a broken cell-phone. Whereupon Xu visits a mysterious repairman (Liu Yi-Wei) who turns out to be an angel and is given a magic cell-phone. Each button puts Xu in touch with a different beautiful woman who falls instantly in love with him. He now has ten chances for love, but this dream quickly turns into a comical nightmare.

Call for Love is more or less the kind of high-concept rom-com one would typically expect to hail from Hollywood. Instead this frothy flight of fancy unfolds amidst ultra-chic, pre-Olympics Beijing combining images of sleek shopping malls, neon-lit nightclubs and fancy restaurants with a Mandarin rap soundtrack for maximum hipness. Fans of glamorous Chinese starlets will find themselves faced with a veritable sweetshop of eye-candy, only the plot leaves viewers with a strangely sour aftertaste. Within minutes of receiving his magic phone, Xu Lang finds himself sharing a cab with comely Luo Yanyan (Song Jia). She promptly invites him back to her place for a candlelit dinner and some heavy petting, till he discovers she is pregnant.

And so it goes, as the love phone connects hapless Xu with tough policewoman Chen Xiaoyu (Fan Bingbing) whom he idiotically persuades to handcuff herself to him before she takes off in pursuit of a terrorist. Club-hopping teenager Long Xiaoxia (Eva Huang Sheng-Yi, star of Kung Fu Hustle (2004)) proves too hyper and modern for his tastes. Xin (Bai Bing) interrogates Xu as part of a reality television dating show, but turns out to be seeking a man for her mum (Cong Shan). Xu’s desire to find a girl just like his mother (Yu Daiqin) leads her to introduce him to Pan Wenlin (Ning Jing), who turns out to be a pushy, controlling, passive-aggressive shrew. Career woman Liang Huijun (Annie Shizuka Inoh) pampers Xu as her personal assistant but after testing his fidelity with a call girl, ends up in bed with her previous p.a. Dog-lover Li Miao (Qu Ying) treats her pet pooch better than her prospective boyfriends. Paranoid psychologist Gao Fei (Qin Hailu) is an outright man-hater who confounds with him with endless mind games.

Surprisingly, given the film is otherwise laden with heavy-handed moralising about the importance of traditional values and how divorce, abortion and dog-lovers are all very bad things, it still Xu lets to sleep with an array of women then ditch them without looking like the bad guy. A reoccurring gag has Xu repeatedly return to the hospital with a new injury treated by friendly Doctor Qian (Gong Bei-Bi) who seems set up for a more important role in the plot than eventually proves the case. Bald, mild-mannered Xu is a most unlikely love object, which is admittedly part of the joke but comes across as infantile and annoying, ditching one woman after another whenever things get complicated.

“Every woman is a double-edged sword. Their most lovable trait might also be their most annoying”, remarks the angelic repairman as he advises Xu to try to understand them better. Despite delivering a syrupy speech towards the end, we see little evidence Xu has learned anything from his experience. While the film avoids the expected conclusion, after Xu returns home to find his wife has remarried, it cops out with a convoluted and rather abrupt conclusion as he runs into an old flame (Shen Xing) at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, who happens to have her own magic cell-phone. Call for Love would like to think its core message is men should learn to empathize with the fairer sex, but in fact its sexist subtext implies modern women are crazy, controlling bitches who have collectively emasculated the male species. And what the hell is romantic about that?

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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